Before the Second Sleep

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Okay, hold on. I have a confession to make—I am a fan of chick lit. Yeah, I know some people call it “fluffy” and shallow, but hear me out. Reading in this genre is not a secret of mine. In fact, it’s something I openly enjoy.

You see, finishing a great book is an achievement for me. It’s not something I talk about for days or constantly bring up in conversation. But when I close that back cover, there’s this wonderful sense of completion. I reflect on the world I just immersed myself in, and it leaves me with a positive feeling. It’s like gaining a new understanding or a valuable observation that lightens the load on my mind instead of adding to it.

Recently, I finished reading Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? and it left me with a smile on my face. I couldn’t help but think about the quirks of human nature that Kinsella brilliantly captures in her writing. From the clumsy yet endearing heroine to the attractive but challenging colleagues, the story is filled with sticky situations and comedic moments. However, what truly shines through is the humanity of Emma Corrigan, the main character. We witness her embarrassment, her struggle to explain herself, and her utter humiliation. But we also see her intelligence, justified resentment, and unwavering dignity in the face of others’ actions that threaten to strip it away. In Emma, we find a reflection of ourselves.

The novel begins with Emma daydreaming about her secrets during a business meeting in Glasgow, which she flew to from London—an achievement that involved a mixture of persuasion and pure luck. The meeting ends disastrously when she accidentally sprays a Panther Cola spinoff drink all over the client representative, causing her marketing firm to lose a potential client. On her way back home, the already devastated Emma experiences a terrifying bout of clear-air turbulence, resulting in minor injuries to some passengers. In a state of panic, she spills all her secrets to an American sitting next to her, only to later discover that he is the CEO of Panther Corporation, the company she works for. As Emma’s two worlds collide, hilarity ensues, along with some serious self-reflection.

About halfway through the novel, I realized that Emma is telling her story in the present tense. Usually, I am not a fan of this narrative style, as it can sometimes hinder the flow of a story. However, in Kinsella’s hands, it works like magic. I found myself flipping through the pages at a rapid pace, eager to uncover what happens next.

Kinsella excels at developing her main characters, with the exception of the handsome stranger and one of Emma’s flatmates, for very specific reasons. There is a poignant quality to her storytelling that enhances the plot rather than taking away from it. The author knows when to restrain an angle or shift it in a different direction. She also captures nuances with her clever use of exclamation points, which reflect Emma’s self-awareness, and through introspection that keeps Emma’s character authentic.

Fans of Kinsella’s previous novels will recognize her signature formula. However, what I have discussed so far is just a fraction of what makes Can You Keep a Secret? a captivating read. Kinsella knows how to create charming characters whose actions feel believable and relatable. She never resorts to recycling phrases or mishaps, and she weaves her themes into the story with subtlety and brilliance.

Although this book is fourteen years old, its themes of honesty, genuine communication, and the dangers of mob mentality remain as relevant as ever, perhaps even more so. Kinsella presents these themes without sounding preachy and masterfully portrays hilarious blow-ups and heart-wrenching disappointments. Her characters are likable (except for that awful Jemima!) and the book is a fun, relaxing, and rewarding read. It’s not just a break from serious reading; it’s a great tale that readers should definitely share.

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